- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 7, 2004

The Washington Redskins are hitting the restricted free agent market one more time.

A year after plucking away four restricted free agents from other NFL clubs, the Redskins have made a play for St. Louis Rams starting cornerback Jerametrius Butler.

Washington issued a tender offer to Butler late Friday night for six years and $15million with a $4 million signing bonus, several sources familiar with the offer said yesterday. It is believed the Rams’ seven-day clock to match began ticking Friday at midnight.

It was unclear whether St. Louis would match. The Redskins included a $2million roster bonus before the 2006 season to dissuade the Rams.

Butler, 25, would require a fifth-round pick as compensation if St. Louis doesn’t match. Washington has just two picks left in April’s draft, but one of them is a fifth-rounder. The Redskins’ only other selection is in the first round, fifth overall.

A 2001 fifth-round selection out of Kansas State, Butler would serve as the third corner to Fred Smoot and newly signed Shawn Springs. He also could be the long-term replacement for Smoot, who nearly was traded last offseason but rebounded impressively. Smoot has one year left on his rookie contract and probably would seek a significant extension.

Currently, the Redskins’ nickel corner is Rashad Bauman, who has been fairly productive in two NFL seasons despite a 5-foot-8 frame. However, Bauman would be somewhat suspect as a starter if Smoot or Springs were injured.

Last year the Redskins bucked NFL convention by raiding the restricted market, signing away wide receiver Laveranues Coles (first-round compensation, New York Jets), return man Chad Morton (fourth, Jets), safety Matt Bowen (fifth, Green Bay Packers) and defensive tackle Jermaine Haley (seventh, Miami Dolphins).

Because Washington did not have the fourth-round compensation for Morton, the club had to trade a 2003 fifth-rounder and 2004 fourth-rounder to the New England Patriots to obtain it.

A source familiar with new coach Joe Gibbs said it is no surprise the Redskins are interested in dealing yet another draft pick. The source said Gibbs always has put more emphasis on acquiring veterans who could contribute immediately rather than risky rookies who might never pan out.

Meanwhile, free agent tight end Walter Rasby weighed offers from the Redskins and Houston Texans and is expected to make a decision soon.

Rasby, 31, also is being sought to re-sign by the New Orleans Saints, but it was unclear whether the Saints also had extended an offer. Earlier in the week, New Orleans appeared concerned about what type of proposals the Redskins and Texans might make.

All three clubs like Rasby for the stout blocking he would provide, in terms of both pass protection against defensive ends and the perimeter running game. A former Redskin, he was a valuable part of Marty Schottenheimer’s run-based offense in 2001 but became expendable after a year in Steve Spurrier’s scheme.

Rasby visited Washington on Wednesday, the opening day of free agency, traveled to Houston a day later and wrapped up his visit there Friday. An NFL source said Rasby yesterday was at home considering his offers.

The Redskins have been the NFL’s most aggressive team in free agency for a second straight year. Their 10 acquisitions since Tuesday include Pro Bowl players Springs, quarterback Mark Brunell and running back Clinton Portis.

The 10-player take includes veteran punter Tom Tupa, who agreed to a four-year deal Friday to replace Bryan Barker. In Washington, the 38-year-old Tupa reunites with kicker John Hall, for whom Tupa held from 1999 to 2001 with the Jets. An official announcement on Tupa is expected tomorrow.

Washington welcomed interior offensive lineman Eric Beverly on Friday, but no deal is imminent. Beverly’s agent, Vern Sharbaugh, said his client had several more trips planned. A Redskins source said Washington would speak with Sharbaugh tomorrow.

Signing Beverly might mean the release of former starting center Larry Moore. Washington could save $1.3million against the salary cap by cutting Moore, who was injured the second half of last season and replaced by recently re-signed Lennie Friedman.

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